The Times (£) is reporting that ISAF has made a significant progress in pacifying the death circle around Sangin. The key, it
seems, is driving a wedge between the tribal insurgents and religious insurgents foreign to Helmand:
‘British commanders believe that they are close to achieving a significant tribal uprising against the Taleban that could lead to the reintegration of hundreds of insurgents fighting
around Sangin, the most dangerous place in Afghanistan.
The number of violent incidents in Sangin has fallen by about 80 per cent in the past month. British commanders believe that this is partly the result of tribal leaders delivering on a
promise to restrain tribal elements aligned with the Taleban and to expel the insurgents.’
The appointment of Mohammad Sharif as Governor of Sangin has also proved decisive: Helmand is happy to answer to a local representative of the Kabul government provided he is not
corrupt. ISAF armed forces must now press the advantage that Sharif and the negotiators have gained. The last tribal uprising in Helmand in 2007 ended in slaughter because it was not supported by
Task Force Helmand. To be fair, the British lacked the resources, but soldiers are still rebuilding relationships with the victims of Taliban vengeance. The British are now supported by 18,000 US
Marines and countless Afghan troops, so the mistake should not be repeated.
Much rides on this fledgling operation: ISAF’s entire strategy is built on rooting out corruption, negotiating with the tribe and using sustained force when necessary. The prospect of
bringing stability to Afghanistan will weaken if this uprising collapses.